The National Gallery has reopened its doors to visitors after putting strict new social distancing rules in place.
A queue of people formed outside the London venue on Wednesday morning waiting to be the first members of the public to be welcomed inside in months.
The gallery has become the first of the major institutions to reopen as coronavirus restrictions are eased.
Artist Christie Smith, 50, who was first in the queue to be let inside, told the PA news agency she was “absolutely delighted” to be able to visit and was confident in the safety measures that have been put in place.
“I have been crying out for this for weeks,” she said, adding: “It is really important to me.”
Visitors to the gallery will follow one-way art routes around the venue and all visits, including those to see the main collection for free, must be booked in advance.
Two-metre social distancing rules will be in place throughout and visitors are being encouraged to wear face coverings.
The gallery has also stepped up its cleaning routine.
The exhibition Titian: Love, Desire, Death has resumed after the gallery was forced to close three days into its run.
Tour guide Vania Gay, 61, said she was “so happy and excited” to be able to visit a gallery again.
I have been crying out for this for weeks. It is really important to meChristie Smith, artist
“I just want to sit and enjoy a painting,” she said.
Thalia Reynolds, 66, who is retired, said she was at the gallery the last day it was open before it was forced to shut because of coronavirus.
She said she does not have any safety concerns about returning, adding: “They are bigger than supermarkets and on the whole you don’t touch anything.”
The director of the National Gallery Gabriele Finaldi told the PA news agency he feels “very proud” that the gallery has been able to become one of the first to reopen.
“It is a very happy moment, the return to some sort of normality,” he said.
The Nationâs Gallery now open, and ready when you are.— National Gallery (@NationalGallery) July 8, 2020
Our doors are open and we can't wait to welcome you back. Remember, all visits must be booked online and in advance. You can book your ticket here: https://t.co/NIyq9tetmc pic.twitter.com/bQ9K63RaNT
He added that the gallery wants to be part of the country’s “emergence” from lockdown.
“We want to be part of the recovery story,” he added.
“I think people are desperate for some good news and some places to go and frankly I think that the arts are very important in people’s wellbeing and so we’re very keen to be part of that recovery process.”
The Royal Academy Of Arts, Tate Britain and Tate Modern are opening later this month.
Others to reveal reopening dates include the Ashmolean Museum, Nottingham Contemporary, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, The Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery, Chisenhale Gallery, The Barbican, Whitechapel Gallery and Serpentine Galleries.